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8 Октября 2020

Russian Universities Shifting back to Online Classes

Due to the deteriorating situation with the coronavirus in Moscow, Sergey Sobyanin announced that Moscow schoolchildren will stay home for an extra week this fall break. The number of infected is also growing in universities and colleges, with more and more groups being quarantined if faculty or students are tested positive. Some colleges have already decided to transfer students to distance learning from 5 to 18 October. Some universities are planning to switch online due to the daily Covid-19 caseload rise.

Officials have not yet made any statements on switching universities back to distance learning. On Thursday, the press service of the Ministry of Education and Science confirmed once again that there are no plans for transfering all universities to studying remotely. However, the agency stressed that “the final decision on transferring students to distance education depends on the epidemiological situation in each region and in the country as a whole”.   

At the same time, since the beginning of full-time studies in the capital, in addition to school classes, more groups of students from colleges and universities have started to be quarantined. According to the students themselves, dozens of groups are isolated every week.

“Last week several groups in our institute were quarantined as one of the students was tested positive,” shared a senior student from one of the Moscow universities.  “Everyone will be studying online except freshmen. Most of us study on a tuition fee basis, and even though the university is not the most prestigious, the cost of full-time studies is quite high. Obviously, students began to demand a discount during the period of distance learning, as this form is by no means a full-time one. Some even threatened to leave the university and go to court. Clearly, the management is not going to reduce the tuition fee, so after long conversations we have just been told, “If you want to get sick, you can attend face-to-face classes. Apparently, no one will be risking to transfer us online”.

Mikhail Eskinarov, the Rector of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, told us about the impact of the new round of the pandemic on the work of higher educational institutions.

According to the decree of the Mayor of Moscow, from Monday on, we are transferring online 30% of our employees, this is about 1000 people. They are not directly related to organising the educational process. These are employees of the financial accounting departments or people engaged in research activities.

Face-to-face studies will continue, with the teaching staff in the same mode respectively. Teachers over 65 can decide themselves to work online or not. The vast majority of our teachers decided to attend classes at the beginning of the school year. At the same time, all of our employees 65+ and people with certain diseases always have a possibility of working remotely if they want.

How many infected students are there at the university?

So far, we have quarantined 38 groups as some of the students have been tested positive. This represents an average of 5 to 7 percent of the total. This has been the case for the past two weeks. We are very hopeful that the full-time studies will continue, but if it is necessary to switch online, the university is fully prepared for this. 

In your opinion, is the demand of students to lower tuition fees justified?

I think students don’t really understand the difference between distance education and distance learning. In the first case, the students simply study the material at their convenience and listen to the recorded lectures. We are fully committed to the schedule and all hours of face-to-face learning. Classes are held online, the faculty is working as usual. At the same time, the expenses of the university when working remotely are not reduced. Teachers' salaries remain, and there are also additional costs connected with installing and maintaining special online education software.